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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

New Russia On Display At City Bash

One thing is already certain about the celebrations to mark the 850th anniversary of the city of Moscow: They will provide an intriguing insight into the aspirations and ideology of the new Russia.


Perhaps fittingly, the event will be rather short on international superstars. Only Luciano Pavarotti, French pop star Patricia Kass and English crooner Chris de Burgh will be performing.


Instead, Moscow will be filled with icons of a more Russian sort. A huge Orthodox image of Mary, the mother of Jesus Christ, will be beamed up in laser lights over the city. Hordes of children will parade dressed in Monomakh hats, symbolizing Russian autocratic power.


It is hard from a foreigner's perspective to judge whether these historically loaded images appeal to Russian pride. Their nationalistic tone will certainly grate on some.


While it may seem too much like a throw back to the social engineering of Soviet ideology, it would be nice if, as well as celebrating Russian nationalism, the 850th stressed the values of democracy and tolerance.


The headline events of the celebration should at least be impressive. A huge, theatrical display on Red Square by renowned film director Andrei Konchalovsky, a massed choral concert on the steps of the rebuilt Cathedral of Christ the Savior and an epic closing show in the newly covered Luzhniki stadium will all be lavish spectaculars.


Somewhat disappointingly, it seems that the audience for all of these keynote events will be rather selective. Entrance will be by invitation only to 15,000 VIPs.


While this exclusiveness is perhaps unavoidable, given the restrictions of available space, the city government should also make sure that it tries to involve as many ordinary Russians as possible in the festival.


So far, less publicity has been given to events which will be accessible to ordinary Muscovites. A large outdoor event in Victory Park on Poklonnaya Gora in the west of the city and a dance marathon near Moscow State University might fill this void. But the city must make sure that the general public can participate fully in their birthday bash.


Another perhaps unavoidable feature of the celebrations is the central role that will be played by Mayor Yury Luzhkov. He will lead the opening parade, officiate at the closing ceremony and speakers will be installed on street corners to broadcast his speech.


Luzhkov is a politician with thinly disguised presidential ambitions, and it would be too much to expect him not to make political capital out of this event. Still, the mayor should show a little modesty and remember that the heroes of the performance are the people of Moscow and not its politicians.